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The amendments are mainly of a probing nature, although some are more specific than others. I shall run through those of particular interest to me. Amendment No. 190 would provide that in the exceptional circumstance of the issuing of a certificate, it would have to be subject to a ratification by both Houses of Parliament. That is a rather ponderous process. I think that the system of having a Lord Chief Justice is probably preferable, but if it is to be used in highly exceptional circumstances only, the amendment might provide for an alternative way forward.
I do not think that amendment No. 192 adds anything to the substance of the discussion, but amendments Nos. 194, 228 and 195 are important to the latter part of clause 65. I shall begin with amendment No. 194. Proposed new section 18B(4) to the Coroners Act 1988 states:
“The Secretary of State may by regulation made by statutory instrument provide for this Act and the law relating to coroners and coroners’ inquests to have effect in relation to specially appointed coroners with such modifications as may be specified in the regulations.”
I appreciate why that might be required, but the power is far too sweeping to be given to the Secretary of State. If we are to have regulations, I would expect them to be like rules of court and approved by the Lord Chief Justice, even if they are put forward by the Lord Chancellor. That would be a better way to do it. Furthermore, we will obviously require the opportunity to vote on the regulations. The system cannot simply provide for a vote on annulment. It must be decided on a positive vote by both Houses of Parliament, so I would expect it to be decided by affirmative resolution.
Finally, amendment No. 195 is a probing amendment that would leave out proposed subsection (6):
“The Secretary of State may pay a specially appointed coroner such remuneration and allowances as the Secretary of State thinks fit.”
I would expect procedures to be in place to ensure that that is not done on an ad hoc basis, as the provision seems to imply it would be. I am not sure how Lord Justice Scott Baker was remunerated for his work as the coroner in the inquest into the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, but I assume that it came out of his salary for sitting as a Lord Justice of Appeal. I would not expect there to be a special remuneration and allowances rate as is the case if a coroner is specially vetted by a panel—although, I suppose that it could be argued that he receives an enhanced salary for having undergone that process. Otherwise, however, it should all be part of a day’s work.